Monthly Archives: January 2009


Just over a week ago, we had a great AI seminar here at ISI with Christine Borgman. A professor at UCLA, she is at the leading edge of understanding how the academic process in particular academic communication is done now (i.e. with the advent of the interweb).  I wanted to wait and post about the talk until after I had finished her book Scholarship in the Digital Age but, as I’m only half way through,  in the interest of freshness I thought I’d put up the link now.

I’ll save my own thoughts on her ideas with respect to provenance until I’ve completed the book. But you should definitely check out her talk. She presents some really compelling ideas about the information value chain.


There’s much to be said about today’s inauguration of President Obama but the thing I want to focus on is how well documented this event was from multiple view points. Here’s a link to a slide show from flickr, with at the time over 5000 photos from over 2000 people (I’m sure both stats will grow as more people add their photos). Each photo from a different vantage point, different person, and at a slightly different time all documenting the same event: an incredible range of views.

This notion of views as explored in my thesis or accounts as it’s called in the Open Provenance Model is critical to understanding how things have happened. The more documented perspectives we have of an event the more likely we are to be able to understand its true nature (free from bias and more detailed) after the fact. So much documentation is hard to process and thus a clear story is sometimes difficult to construct from it. However, it’s clear that this is one area where technology can help us. Here, I’m thinking about technologies such as  Photosynth (see CNN’s the moment) that help munge multiple sources into one element. The hard part is once we have the synthesis of information how do we understand its provenance?

On my way back from my Christmas holiday in Amsterdam, I was looking through the shows available on the inflight entertainment system and found a show called How It’s Made. The show’s premise is obvious, it goes through how various products. Below is a clip for how a compass is constructed. I actually think it would be neat if every product purchased could be linked to this type of video. I doubt it would be difficult for the PR department of most businesses to produce these short videos. These videos really provide a broad description of the provenance of the particular product in question and are very accessible to most consumers. 

I discussed the idea of using quick videos to describe provenance in a previous post that focused on using them for science. The key is to connect specific instances of a product to the video that describes, in general, how products of the particular type are constructed.

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